People can soon know what a Pie Hard pizza for dinner feels like, as the food truck turned restaurant will have its grand opening on Thursday.
Owners and Waterloo residents Megan Keefe and Michael Pastor have been working to open their business at 122 W. Mill Street in Waterloo for over a year, and they were finally ready this spring.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit.
But the couple had already installed a take-out window at the front of the store, so they are now opening for carry-out orders only.
“We kind of just thought about it as a big version of the food truck because we were lucky enough to put that big take-out window in front,” Keefe said. “We were actually ready for carry-out before all this happened.”
Keefe and Pastor started Pie Hard Pizza & Custard Co. as a food truck in 2017, offering creative pizzas and frozen custard.
Their kitchen was based in Belleville, but the former home of Waterloo’s Subway became available in mid-2018 and the couple decided to move their operation closer to home.
“We were lucky to find it at the time that we did because we had been looking for a spot in Waterloo that could be a little more permanent,” Keefe recalled. “It was an easy decision to open here because we knew that small-town feeling and all the small business owners are so helpful to everybody.”
They also soon realized the location was too good to not use as a restaurant instead of just a kitchen and storage area. They had not planned on opening up a restaurant so soon, but Keefe and Pastor changed plans.
“We decided to just throw everything we owned into it and go for it,” Keefe said.
That began with extensive renovations of the location, with the pole in the middle of the building the only remaining part of its previous occupant.
The couple tore down the brick wallpaper to expose the actual brick, installed booths, barstools, a custard area and the take-out window and upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms.
“We gutted it,” Keefe summarized. “It looks completely different, the front and back.”
Before the pandemic, Pastor and Keefe planned to start small with no carry-out or delivery options to not overwhelm staff or their pizza oven, which can fit five pizzas.
Now, they have shifted to only offering call-in carry-out orders during the stay at home order, both for safety reasons and to work out any kinks.
“Carry-out isn’t going to concern me as much as when we are allowed to open our dining room again,” Keefe said. “That’s going to be a little trickier.”
As a food truck, Pie Hard Pizza & Custard Co. was known for being able to make customers food within minutes after they order, and that should be the same at the brick-and-mortar establishment.
“I’m thinking it might be a little crazy at the beginning and the wait might be a little longer to get the hang of it,” Keefe said. “We might change up some of the ways we do service after that first night and first week. We still plan on it being a pretty quick turnaround for people because we’re not actually doing too big of a menu.”
To start, Pastor and Keefe will only offer three specialty pizzas, a customizable one, garlic cheese sticks, a salad, a custard panini made with a doughnut from Ahne’s Bakery and three flavors of custard that will rotate.
Keefe said they will look to add more once they are able. They have the space to simultaneously offer six frozen custard flavors, for example.
“If we can add more, we will,” Keefe said. “We want to be able to offer as much as we can.”
One addition on the horizon is a selection of beer and wine. Keefe said she and Pastor are also planning to make some custard where people can see it, as they make their custard by hand using liquid nitrogen.
“Not only is our ice cream very creamy and very rich, it’s kind of neat the way we make it, too,” she said. “And our pizzas are just a little more creative whenever it comes to the toppings you get. If you’re looking to step out of the box a little bit when it comes to custard and pizza, this is definitely the place to check out.”
Starting Thursday, Pie Hard will be open 4-8 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays and 4-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Orders must be called in ahead at 618-939-4273.
To see a full menu and stay up-to-date, visit piehardpizza.com or follow Pie Hard Pizza & Custard Co. on Facebook.